Amazon is looking into ways it can produce prepared meals that don't require refrigeration as it attempts to further expand its foothold in the grocery industry.
According to reports, the online retailer is testing a technology developed for the U.S. military that would allow it to create ready-to-eat meals that are easy to stockpile and ship. Officials at the startup firm marketing the technology told Reuters items including beef stew and a vegetable frittata could be available as early as next year.
The food-prep technology -- known as microwave assisted thermal sterilization (MATS) -- was developed by Washington State University and is being brought to market by Denver, Colo.-based startup 915 Labs.
On its website, 915 Labs explains that to prepare the food the package needs to be placed in pressurized hot water and heated in the microwave for only a matter of minutes. \"This patented process preserves the nutrients, color, texture and flavor of foods — while providing a shelf life equivalent to conventionally processed foods,\" it says. The food can be stored for up to a year.
The news of the food tech trial comes not long after Amazon started selling ready-to-cook meal kits in select U.S. markets. In July, Amazon applied for U.S. trademark protection for the phrase “We do the prep. You be the chef.” for packaged food kits “ready for cooking and assembly as a meal.” Amazon listed a range of food types including meat, seafood, salads and soups.
The move could also help strengthen the company's AmazonFresh grocery delivery service and complement its US$13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods.